Need to build a submarine? Go to the Library! My dad both loves to – and excels at – learning new things. He chooses a hobby, researches it, and then follows through. Example: He is not, nor has ever been, in construction, but he built the house we grew up in. And 30 years later, it’s still standing. In fact, if I’m honest here, it’s probably the sturdiest, well-made house I’ve ever seen. As a child, this didn’t seem like the enormous accomplishment it obviously is. But now, as an adult who can’t even figure out how to put up her own blinds, I am completely flabbergasted that someone with no background can accomplish this. A few years back, I asked, “Dad, how did you know what to do? How did you keep from electrocuting yourself, make sure the walls didn’t fall down, or even know where to start?” He replied, “I decided I wanted to build a house, so I went to the library and checked out a book on building houses.” And he wasn’t joking. He actually learned to build a house by reading a library book. Geez!
I guess we all need hobbies, and this past summer, I chose a much less daunting task. Instead of learning to build a house, I set out to try a whole slew of Barley House burgers. Each Thursday during the summer and fall, the Barley House debuted a new burger. Rick and I made the long trek to Concord to try as many burgers as possible (and a few other dishes along the way). I’ve reviewed the Barley House once before, click here for the first review.
In general, the Barley House has fairly small portions, but reasonable prices, so it seems fair. Their complimentary hummus and bread sticks are always my favorite part of the meal. When the waitress heard how much I liked the hummus, she brought me the recipe. I highly recommend it and can’t WAIT to make it myself (if the link to the recipe doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll happily type it out).
The service is typically slow, so don’t expect to get in and out quickly. Over my many visits here, I’ve come to realize that the Barley House makes excellent burgers, but not much else. Most of their other dishes are lackluster and disappointing.
Their burgers come with fries of course, and in addition to regular ketchup, they have a chipotle ketchup which is fun to try. Especially since I did by accident (even though it is clearly labeled). Let’s first look at the burgers that are always on their menu:
Caprese Turkey Burger – walnut pesto, tomato, fresh mozzarella, ciabatta bun. The patty itself was well seasoned, but the pesto flavor wasn’t strong enough to shine through. Chunks of mozzarella and slices of tomatoes added a nice texture.
Black Bean Burger –vegetarian burger of black bean, sweet potato, red peppers, and garlic. This sounded delightful but was entirely disappointing. The patty crumbled all over the place, and the flavor was boring. I didn’t taste any sweet potato whatsoever. The burger came with a creamy avocado sour cream on the side, which helped a little.
Now for the Weekly Burgers Specials: in order from favorite to least favorite.
Salmon Burger- Salmon burger topped with onion, spinach, and garlic & chive cream cheese, all served on a warm, soft bagel. This was one of my absolute favorites! I loved how the cream cheese melted into the salmon, and the texture of the chewy bagel was a great pairing.
Brie Burger – melted brie with honey garlic sauce and walnuts. The honey sauce was incredibly good and matched beautifully with the brie. I couldn’t find or taste the walnuts, but it was still an incredible burger.
Baked Bean Burger – coleslaw, beans, chili sauce, onion, cheddar cheese, and bacon. The chili sauce really made this burger stand out, although it came with a side of mad cow disease. The medium-well burger came out completely pink, but I was too much of a wimp to send it back. Moooo!
The Mac and Cheese Burger – topped with mac n cheese with a breaded tomato. The burger had a good flavor, but it was lacking pizzazz.
The Portabella Panini is still my favorite food item they make. Crispy bread surrounds veggies and cheese. Everything is flavorful and warm, and the cheese is smooth and melted. The only thing that could be improved upon is more veggies inside. It’s a very thin sandwich, almost like a quesadilla.
The Cranberry Chicken (a special, not on their normal menu) was served atop creamy, delicious mashed potatoes. The breading on the chicken was light and flavorful, and the addition of dried cranberries brought it all together. Other than the Portabella Panini, this is the only other meal – that isn’t a burger – that I have really enjoyed.
Rick ordered the Fish and Chips but he intelligently sprayed them down with vinegar (aka Kim repellant) before I could snag a bite. He claims he enjoyed the meal.
The Guinness Beef Stew was enjoyed by everyone else at the table. I’m not a huge fan of stew, but the other people who tried it really liked it, so I think is probably one of the better meals on the menu. They did, however, comment on the high $14 price tag considering how shallow the bowl was.
My Tequila Cilantro Lime Sea Scallops were a huge disappointment. They were pricey and totally void of any flavor. The scallops were served on plain white rice. The tiniest dab of (amazing) cilantro lime sauce was sprinkled on top, but I had mostly finished my meal before I realized there was even any sauce at all. In hind sight, I would have asked for more sauce, which would have completely changed the dynamics of this bland meal.
So, if you’re looking for a good burger joint, the Barley House is for you. If you’re looking for a good meal, you might want to look elsewhere, since the Barley House is inconsistent. And while my burger hobby was way more fun (and less work), than building a house, I’m left with an extra 10 pounds and mad cow disease instead of shelter ¡Buen provecho!